Robert Summers perched high up on a scaffold and offered directions to his son Temple as they positioned a large rolling platform holding a monumental model of a horse and rider.
ěThere’s always something you overlook,” Summers said last Saturday afternoon. He held a sculpting knife, ready to make last-minute finishing touches on the model that was scheduled to be picked up Monday and taken to a foundry in Bastrop for casting in bronze.
The sculpture Summer was working on is a larger-than-life piece of Pat Garrett, the legendary lawman of Lincoln County, N.M., who is best known for killing the outlaw Billy the Kid. Summers depicted Garrett on horseback, calmly loading his revolver, his jacket blowing behind him in wind.
Instead of being life-size, the work is sized to 150 percent. Garrett was a tall man anyway, and he REALLY looks tall in the saddle in Summers’ sculpture.
The work will be unveiled on the courthouse in Roswell, N.M., next month.
Summers’ spacious studio brims with pieces of other models and items Summers uses for reference. .Old saddles hang on the wall. High shelves hold oddly realistic pieces of models for other bronzes — heads and torsos of figures and horse heads, tails and legs.
Summers has covered the model, which has been carved out of polystyrene, with clay. Then he uses various tools to mold, carve, indent and put his signature style on the figure and horse.
Summers first made a maquette, or small-scale model, of the sculpture in clay. The small model allows Summers to impose a grid on it and shoot a laser beam to determine exact measurements and each muscle, each feature to be transferred later to the giant block of styrofoam. Then the styrofoam is carved away and and the model begins to take shape.
“At the end you get the form that was hiding inside,” Summers says.
A huge beam attached to the platform supports the horse. Holes are drilled into the model to keep it intact and stable while Summers works on it and to transport it.
Summers’ massive sculptures — such as the Juana and Charles Barnard piece that stands on the Somervell County Courthouse square — have to be cast in bronze in pieces, then are welded together, an exacting job.
“There probably will be four pieces just to cast the head,” Summers said of the Pat Garret sculpture. “Each leg will be cast in at least two pieces. The body probably will take eight pieces. The upper torso will be seven pieces from the belt up. We’ll probably be casting 50 to 75 pieces all together. It’s like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle.”
An even larger sculpture depicting Route 66 — “East Meets West,” it’s called — will be unveiled in Tulsa in December. It includes a Model T — Summers sculpted the outside AND inside — horses rearing up and many figures.
“I guess I wasn’t in my right mind when I accepted that,” Summers said with a laugh. “That’s the biggest piece I’ve ever done. “
So many people from Glen Rose want to attend the unveiling that local organizers are talking about renting buses.
Summers’ monumental pieces cost $105,000 to $125,000 just to cast. The hundreds of hours that go into designing and building each sculpture are what makes each piece priceless.
Temple pulls part of a bullet belt out of the freezer of a refrigerator by the front door. Summers shows that the end of each bullet bears the markings that a real bullet would have. It’s that attention to detail that has made Summers’ work so sought after and elevates his sculptures into moments of history frozen in time and preserved forever.
There’s one detail he has forgotten, though.
“I guess I should sign it,” he said.
He plans to put his signature someplace where it won’t be too obvious. But there’s no mistaking his distinctive style as Pat Garrett rides away to find his quarry and become a legend in history and in bronze.